Living the Dream: Julian Bond

The civil rights veteran hopes the March on Washington will inspire a renewed commitment to civil rights.

Posted: 08/20/2013 04:01 PM EDT
Living the Dream: Julian Bond

In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict, African-American parents from coast to coast recalled having "the talk" with their sons and more than a few likely had it again.

When civil rights leader Julian Bond was a child, parents had a different kind of conversation with their children. In his case, they said to try to avoid policemen and be wary in any encounter. They explained how Blacks couldn't go to certain places or use some facilities because "we were Black people living in a society that devalued Blacks," Bond, also a former legislator and national chairman of the NAACP, said in an interview with BET.com.

"At first it made us angry, but it's the way things were," he said. "We always thought, though, that they didn't have to be that way, that there would come a time when we could do something about it and the time did come," he added.

Bond was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but moved to Pennsylvania at age 5 when his father, Horace Mann Bond, became the first African-American president of Lincoln University. While a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. It was just the start of a lifelong career devoted to fighting for civil, social and economic rights.

During the original March on Washington 50 Augusts ago, he had a front-row seat near the speakers' platform. That day, Bond, who was just 23, had no idea how many people were there, "but when I read the newspapers the next day and saw their estimates, I realized I had been to something fantastic that probably would not be duplicated again."

After the march and other events that made certain discriminatory acts unlawful, Bond noted, he was able to go to movie theaters, restaurants and other places he couldn't before the civil rights movement.

"I got elected to the Georgia state legislature where I served for 20 years because of the civil rights movement," he said. "I was able to teach at the University of Virginia and in 1963 I couldn't go to the University of Virginia."

Still, Bond acknowledged, the fight continues and he hopes that the people who attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the march as well as those watching it on television will end the day with "a renewed commitment to making the dream come true."

"Hopefully they will commit to finishing the unfinished business of 50 years ago: ensuring that every American has the right to register and to vote, something we thought we had until a month or so ago, and eliminating racial profiling, an illness that has been with America for far too long," he said. "It is equalizing education for people of all colors and ensuring every American has a decent job. It's millions of things we thought we were attacking in 1963 but obviously haven't accomplished yet."

Like Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who defeated him in a congressional race, Bond hopes that a new generation of civil rights leaders will emerge. He is heartened by the example already being set by the Dream Defenders, a group of students who led an extended protest against Stand Your Ground laws at the Florida state capitol.

"Those kids took their inspiration from SNCC [and] are taking those lessons to a higher plane," Bond said. "If they can do it, others can do it."

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(Photo: Richard Sheinwald /Landov)

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